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Film Review

2009 Oscar Nominated Live Action
Short Films

I had forgotten that there was an Oscar category for short films, meaning those less than 30 minutes. Turns out there are two categories, live action and animated. These are almost never screened in theaters, so it's not clear how they get any sort of circulation. But the Landmark's Embarcadero Theater is screening both categories now. Just returned from seeing the five live action short film nominees, all released in 2008. And all are wonderful! Auf Der Strecke (Germany/Switzerland) is a poignant story of a security guard in a large department store, who is enamored with a book clerk. He watches her on the security cameras, and deliberately takes the same train home each night as she does. One night, he sees her with another man, and the story suddenly veers into something quite unexpected. The second film, New Boy (Ireland), looks at a new boy in a Catholic school. He is black, and the director shows us, in just eleven brilliant minutes, his tragic background and interaction with his new classmates, some cruel. The third film, Toyland (Germany), is set in Berlin in the late 1930's, with a young boy who has become friends with another boy his age in the same apartment building. The other boy is Jewish. Again, a riveting story, with a very unexpected twist. The fourth film, The Pig (Denmark), is the lightest fare, with a sly humorous, yet serious story about an older man going into the hospital for an operation. There is a cute painting of a pig on his wall, which he grows to love. This film is like a fine wine: rich, lovely, and beautifully flavored. The fifth film, Manon on the Asphalt (France), is simply a brilliant story about an attractive young woman living in Paris. Again, with a surprise, that steers the story into a very creative, powerful direction. All five films total only 94 minutes, with every minute a treasure. All of these directors, none of whom I am familiar with, have produced tremendously accomplished films with often spectacular acting. All are understated yet pack a real power, and are as good as any longer film that I have seen. I simply didn't expect these to be so good, and urge you to see them. It was a great experience and know you will agree.

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